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Bend it like Bradford: Town, sports dome sign new deal

Council approves 15-year operating agreement with Bradford Sports Dome Inc.; company agrees to replace dome, turf and HVAC system

Local soccer fans scored a game-changing goal this week.

Councillors voted to renew the operational agreement for the Bradford Sports Dome with Bradford Sports Dome Inc. (BSDI) for an additional 15 years, during the Dec. 19 council meeting.

In exchange, BDSI has committed to renew or replace the dome, turf and HVAC system as the assets are either at or approaching end-of-life, according to report from Terry Foran, director of community services.

While the town still had two five-year contract extension options available after the initial 15-year deal is set to expire in 2025, BDSI was looking for greater commitment before making the investment in updates.

Located at 2971 Sideroad 10, the dome has been operated by BDSI under agreement with the town since November 2010, with the municipality supplying the land and BDSI responsible for the cost of operation, which it recovers through user fees.

The original agreement allotted 50 field hours per week to the Bradford Soccer Club, but Foran noted the local sports scene has grown and changed since then.

Not only is there a second squad in town, Bradford Wolves Soccer Club, but the report adds the dome is also used for minor baseball as well as minor local, minor regional, minor private for-profit, local adult and out-of-town users.

“With the amount of sport development that has occurred, individual letters of understanding of agreements are out-dated,” Foran said in the report.

Under the new agreement, no specific group or sport has any hours allocated to them, and instead, 130 field hours per week must be allocated to minor sports who have first right of refusal.

Remaining hours will need to follow the same process as the town’s facilities allocation guide, which provides the following order of priority:

  • Local minor groups
  • Local junior groups
  • Local adult leagues
  • Minor regional groups
  • Schools
  • Private rentals

That didn’t seem to sit well with Luis Andrez of Bradford Soccer Club, who made a presentation to council earlier in the meeting about the club’s importance and the difficulty they are experiencing booking enough hours in the dome.

“Right now, we have three teams crammed into a single space,” he said, adding they didn’t get all the time they requested this year because interest in the sport is growing, but the number of hours available at the dome has stayed the same.

Andrez included a slide in his presentation showing the club’s membership has grown from 770 in 2022, to 1,010 in 2023, with an expected 1,210 players in 2024, noting the club turned down 45 players (enough for three teams) this winter due to lack of dome space.

One slide included a list of 23 of the club’s players that had gone on to find success at the university and international levels.

The presentation claimed the club’s staff have national and international experience allowing them to compete with the best and biggest clubs in the province, but the lack of time prevents them from accommodating more players.

“Limited dome hours makes it hard to compete,” Andrez said. “We don’t know our dome hours from one day to the next.”

The presentation didn’t make a specific request of council, but did identify an opportunity “to find more winter space for the community,” included a turf/dome of their own as a long-term goal and noted broken nets, lights, ventilation and structural failures at the current dome.

Ward 2 Coun. Jonathan Scott asked if Andrez was making a request about the dome agreement renewal, to which Andrez said “the dome is at a lifeline and there needs to be money reinvested in it.”

Beyond just updating the existing dome, Ward 6 Coun. Nickolas Harper wanted to know if there was enough need for a second facility.

“Could we fill a second dome? Absolutely,” Andrez said, noting that soccer wasn’t the only growing sport, with increased interest in baseball, cricket and more.

That prompted Mayor James Leduc to ask what’s stopping the club from bringing a second dome to Bradford.

“What’s stopping me? Nothing. We would like the town’s support in this, if we decided to venture and see what we could do,” Andres said.

The mayor explained that council would be supportive of entering into another agreement for a second dome, but so far, no one has brought forward a proposal and the town didn’t have any suitable properties to offer. He recommended the club consider collaborating to build a dome at the Portuguese Cultural Centre of Bradford, where the field is already rented for soccer.

In the meantime, the new agreement for the current dome comes at no cost to the town and is set to begin on Oct. 1, 2025, by which time the contract requires BDSI to have the updates completed and the dome ready for use.

Michael Owen

About the Author: Michael Owen

Michael Owen has worked in news since 2009 and most recently joined Village Media in 2023 as a general assignment reporter for BradfordToday
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